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Almost $7 Million Spent on Robert Mueller's Russia Probe; Winds Fueling California Wildfire; John Conyers Out, Roy Moore In?; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 5, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- certainly in Congress we have seen the wave of sexual harassment victims has exposed how Congress deals with sexual harassment, you know. It's this convoluted process. You know, you have to go through 30 days of therapy in order to get your, you know, accusation heard. And, you know, in our current climate, what seems to be winning the day is denial. Deny, deny, deny, as the president has said about Roy Moore. He denies it. He really denies it. So, therefore, I'm going to support him and endorse him because I need his vote.

And that's really what's happened here in this Roy Moore debacle. You know, let's roll back the tape a few weeks. You know, there were all these machinations by Republicans to try to get him off, whether it was get him off the ballot, he couldn't do that, to get a special election, another special election, having strange step down, that couldn't happen, you know, having Jeff Sessions as a write-in, Jeff Sessions was like thanks, but no thanks.

And now because of politics we're one week out, this election is happening and it looks like Roy Moore can actually pull this off? They're throwing money at him because you know what, they need the vote. So they're going to hold their nose on a child molester, John. On a child molester.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Patrick Healey, Amanda Carpenter, Patty Solis Doyle, again, the breaking news from moments ago wasn't about Roy Moore, it was about John Conyers, Democrat, announced his retirement after more than 40 years in the House. The 88-year-old retires as of today, although he did not admit any wrongdoing but he is facing several sexual harassment allegations.

Thank you all for being with us. Appreciate it.

We do have some breaking news on the Robert Mueller investigation. That's coming right after the break.


[10:36:13] BERMAN: We do have breaking news on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Laura Jarrett joins us now with that.

I understand, Laura, we have a price tag? LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. Exactly, John. The

Department of Justice is just releasing figures this morning detailing exactly how much money has been spent over the course of five months in the Russia probe from May to September and the Department of Justice breaks them into two different buckets. They report that roughly $3.2 million has been spent by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on the probe. He was appointed back in May. And roughly $3.5 million has been spent by other DOJ components, for instance, FBI agents who are working on the probe, not directly on Mueller's team, but still working on the investigation.

So roughly $7 million all told from May to September. Obviously the budget was approved by Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein earlier this year and the Department of Justice is also reporting that these figures have now been reported to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, John. But this is the first peek that we're getting into how much money has been spent.

BERMAN: So $7 million. The Mueller team could point to, you know, indictments of Paul Manafort, Rick Gate, could also point to the guilty pleas coming from George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn as something that they have achieved so far with that $7 million as it goes forward.

Laura Jarrett, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

JARRETT: Certainly. Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right. We do have breaking news, strong winds fueling a wildfire in southern California. You can see these pictures, it's already destroyed about 150 buildings, forced thousands of people out of their homes.

We're trying to get communication with CNN's Paul Vercammen in Ventura County.

Paul, do we have you? Paul, tell us what you're seeing?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, a raging inferno here in the foothills of Ventura. If you look right over here, you can see that this house is fully engulfed in flames. This is one of the leading flanks of this fire and it's an extremely long flank. As we came in here, we could see ridge lines on fire for miles. One firefighter estimated five or six miles total.

Now fire, obviously, spreads by going through the brush and downhill, but it also spreads by houses just like this one, catching fire and then shooting up embers into the air. We've seen a lot of that. And the fear is, that these winds and this house will make this even worse.

The count by Ventura firefighters, 150 structures burned. They fear it could be much higher. And as the sun comes up here in Ventura this morning, what they're going to try to do is what they call damage assessment. They are really up against it. They said they have a thousand firefighters on the line or en route, but there's so many different firefights going on.

Down over my right shoulder you can hardly see down that street, I can tell you that we saw at least 10 houses on fire just like the one over here. What they have to do is pick their battles. In many ways. Because they have to decide which structures they think they can save and others unfortunately like this one, they just have to let burn to the ground.

You also have the issue of telephone and power poles. You can see this one right over here. It's bent over. Burning at the base. Way off in the distance, that other one snapped in half. We saw quite a few neighborhoods here in Ventura County that didn't have power. We understand neighborhoods also with these winds in Carpinteria just over the Santa Barbara County line throughout this 805 area code they've lost power as well.

[10:40:05] Back over this way some people anxiously watching. We talked to one woman. She was crossing her fingers hoping that her home had survived up here in the foot hill area, but she said the smoke was way too thick for her to even get a sense for that.

And as we look back over here this is what the sadness is. You look at a million-dollar home, perhaps multimillion-dollar home and it's hopeless. There's not a thing that they can do about it right now as it burns in front of us.

I will send it back to you now, John.

BERMAN: All right. Paul Vercammen right in the middle of it all in Ventura County. You can see how fast moving those fires are. We will check back in with Paul when we can. And please, Paul, stay safe.

All right. Just a little more than a week to go, just a week, before the special election in the Alabama Senate race. Roy Moore now with the official endorsement of the president and the Republican Party. Stay with us.


[10:45:21] BERMAN: All right. House Speaker Paul Ryan answering questions here. Let's listen in.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: About timing and date and tactics and all the rest. The point is we're having the kind of family discussion that we need to have about how to proceed forward with a majority and I'm confident we will have that. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In the Senate version of the tax bill it keeps the corporate and --

PAUL: I'm not going to get into that -- you think I'm going into the back and forth of this stuff. I'm not going to -- we'll let the conferees wrestle this. I'm not going to go into the, you know, nitpicking the conferees. So, OK, second to the last question or last question. Andy, sorry.


PAUL: You can ask -- he's giving me a conference question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) explicitly say that you still support the December 22nd bill.

PAUL: We're having a conversation with the members on what we think the best date forward is to go. You'll see when we bring the bill to the floor. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. That was House Speaker Paul Ryan, other Republican leaders of the House of Representatives answering questions about the status of the tax plan. They will announce their conferees and they will meet with the Senate conferees and they'll put together a new plan that will be voted on by both bodies. Also talking about the spending deadline. Of course right now they're looking at extending that until December 22nd. No new update on that.

Meanwhile, the big news from Congress today is that the longest serving member of the House of Representatives, John Conyers, just announced he is retiring as of now. As of today in the face of sexual harassment allegations.

Joining me now to talk about this and many other things, CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston and CNN political commentator and former RNC communications director Doug Heye.

Doug, I want to start with you. Conyers out. Roy Moore in. Not just in the race in the Alabama Senate seat right now, but now with the official endorsement of the Republican National Committee. Put yourself back in your old position, as a spokesman for the RNC.

How do you explain to the American people that you are now backing Roy Moore, but you didn't before, because frankly, as many Republicans said, they believed the women?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's actually pretty simple. When you work at the Republican National Committee and there's a Republican incumbent president, you work for that president and you support that candidate that the president supports. He didn't support Roy Moore before. He does now. That's easy.

Now, we can, obviously, have a longer conversation about how the Republican Party has gotten where it's gotten on so many other things but I would tell you working there and when I worked at the RNC we had a lot of negative stories that I had to deal with every day. I still have nightmares of my phone ringing and the name Mark Preston popping up, and one of the things that I had to deal with as we were dealing with these negative stories is a lot of unhappy staff looking to make their way to the exits.

I can tell you, because I've talked to people today, a lot of RNC staff is not happy about this decision even though this is the natural decision for the committee to make. They're updating their resumes. They're looking ahead to the exit. BERMAN: Mark Preston, any lasting damage here to the Republican

brand? Remember of course that we went through this a year ago with Donald Trump. Donald Trump, 13 women came forward and said that he engaged in various kinds of sexual impropriety and voters elected him.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, John, I think we have to look at this in layers in many ways. The Republican Party was going through this transformation and this infighting even before we ran into this reckoning of women coming out and calling out accusers to, you know, sexual abuse or how they were acting. But I think what you're seeing right now with the Republican Party, is when you layer this on to it, is really causing even deeper consternation than they ever thought.

We just saw Paul Ryan up there talking about taxes. That was a very, very short news conference. Didn't necessarily take any questions. Doesn't want to talk about Roy Moore anymore. Nor does anybody on Capitol Hill.

But to Doug's point right now, you have this really generational divide and quite frankly, this political divide, in the Republican Party when it comes to social conservatives and when it comes to everybody else. If anyone saw this morning's interview on "NEW DAY" with Roy Moore's news or new press secretary, the walk-away from that is, is that it all comes down to one word -- abortion.

And social conservatives are rallying around Roy Moore forgetting about his past, not acknowledging his past, because they see Roy Moore as somebody who will try to stop abortion in this country.

BERMAN: We have a little bit of that interview right now. It was conducted by Poppy Harlow who is often sitting here next to me. Watch this exchange with Jane Porter who is the spokesperson for the Roy Moore campaign. Poppy is trying to get an answer about whether or not she believes any of the accusers. Listen.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes or no, do you believe any of them?

JANET PORTER, SPOKESWOMAN, ROY MOORE CAMPAIGN: I believe eight of the people are non-accusers. They did not accuse Judge Moore of any sexual misconduct.

[10:50:04] HARLOW: Do you believe these women? Do you believe any of these women? Any of these eight women? Do you believe any of them? Yes or no?

PORTER: I believe that Beverly Nelson's own attorney doesn't believe in her. That's why she won't release the yearbook --


HARLOW: We have had Gloria Allred on and we've asked her those questions.

PORTER: By the way, I --

HARLOW: My question to you is -- please answer my question. Do you believe the allegations of any of these eight women? Leigh Corfman, Tina Johnson, Gena Richardson, Beverly Young Nelson, Wendy Miller, Gloria Thacker Deason, Kelly Thorp, Debbie Wesson Gibson. Do you believe any of them, yes or no?

PORTER: Your premise is wrong, Poppy. I got to call you on it.


BERMAN: Your premise is wrong? Doug Heye, that's not a yes or no, do you believe these women?

HEYE: Well, let me first say I certainly believe the women and campaign 101 you don't do interviews that you shouldn't be doing that only reflects badly either on you or your campaign. It was a mistake for the Roy Moore campaign to have anybody out there today even though, obviously, Roy Moore should be more accessible to the press.

But this also highlights one other issue, John, that really is at play here, and, you know, when I read Beth Rhinehart's story in "The Washington Post," the first expose on this, I read it twice to make sure that this story was nailed down as it certainly was but my first thought after reading it twice was, it's a shame this story is coming from a national publication because if it's coming from a "Washington Post" or an ABC News as we've certainly seen being talked about this week, what it does in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Montgomery, Alabama, is it makes a lot of people who don't want to believe media stories coming from outside their communities, makes it awfully easy for them not to believe those stories whether they're true or not.

BERMAN: Well, people will have to leave with their votes and people will have to justify their votes for themselves. That's for sure here.

Now I want to ask you both this because I think it's an interesting question. John Conyers quit today, Mark Preston. John -- you know, he's 88 years old. Maybe he was going to retire sooner or later anyway. But John Conyers quit. You know, Roy Moore isn't. What's different here? Why do some politicians survive this type of thing and why do others not?

PRESTON: Incredible amount of pressure on John Conyers to leave Congress from within and I think what we saw is behind the scenes is that his allies were telling him it's time to go. Roy Moore on the other side of things doesn't have any allies here in Washington, other than the Steve Bannons of the world. He sees no reason to get out and by sticking in and staying in, and to Doug's point right there, getting the support of those who look back towards Washington as the establishment and anything that happens here is wrong and bad, that's why you see Roy Moore in.

I mean, look, he ran as a candidate who didn't have the support of the Republican establishment. Remember he was the outsider. He beat the Republican-backed candidate. Roy Moore has nothing to lose. BERMAN: He also ran as a Christian conservative who is now accused of

molesting a 14-year-old girl. I mean these things do shift and change over time. But is there something partisan here, you know, Doug Heye? Is this something Nancy Pelosi took time to get there, but ultimately she did say that John Conyers should resign? You know, is this something where Democrats have taken care of their dirty laundry and Republicans aren't?

HEYE: Well, I don't think it's partisan. I think it's tribal, which is what we saw in the Roy Moore primary against Luther Strange.

Look, obviously Nancy Pelosi came out against John Conyers. That was the right thing to do. We still have a problem with Al Franken in the Senate. And I'll tell you as a Republican we still have a problem with Blake Farenthold in the House of Representatives. If we're going to use the term drain the swamp, getting rid of the harassers is a good way to start that regardless of their party.

BERMAN: We were talking about draining the swamp here, John Conyers, by the way, endorsing his own son to replace him.

HEYE: Yes. Exactly.

BERMAN: Which some people point to as pretty swampy.

If we're talking about tribal politics I do want to shift this to Russia, Mark Preston, if we can, because if this is all tribal, you know, is the outcome of all this Russia investigation, certainly the congressional things, preordained? The Republicans just going to ultimately rally around the president no matter what?

PRESTON: You know, I've been giving a lot of thoughts to that, John. I think that's a very good question because I don't think we've taken a step back and looked at the bigger picture on that. And I think you're right. No matter what the outcome of this is, even if President Trump were to be dragged into this somehow, he's still going to have support. And I think it's going to be very hard for Republicans when it comes to the political matter, if they were ever put in a position to have to try to certainly in the House impeach him and then in the Senate convict him, I don't think you're going to see that happen but it is very tribal at this point. People are looking at what they want, not what the situation is.

BERMAN: And you can see that banner at the bottom of the screen there. I think this may be why the president's lawyer over the last few days has begun to make this argument, and supporters of the president have begun to make the argument that he can't obstruct justice because they're shifting this discussion to the political arena. They want this to be a political fight going forward, Doug Heye, a fight that they're willing to wage.

HEYE: Yes. Look, I've spent a lot of time this year in my home state of North Carolina and what I can tell you from conversations I've had countless times this year is that if you voted for Donald Trump as a Republican in North Carolina you still support Donald Trump. [10:55:04] And my sense is that's certainly true in Alabama, but true

for Republican voters throughout the country. That's why they want this to be a political fight not a legal fight.

BERMAN: All right. Doug Heye, Mark, Preston.

Doug, I will leave you with this, if you ever see caller I.D. saying Mark Preston --

PRESTON: You should worry.

BERMAN: Run and hide. Nothing to do with reporting. Just run and hide in general.

HEYE: Terrible Red Sox and Patriots fan, that Mark Preston.

BERMAN: Gentlemen, thank you. I appreciate it.

We got a lot of breaking news. First of all the Russia investigation, new developments there, including just how much that investigation costs. Not to mention the various developments in the sexual harassment scandals around the country. We'll be right back.